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Cold and Flu - Myths and Truths

Your mother may have been right - you do need to wrap up warm to ward off colds and flu.

Recent research by Professor Ron Eccles at the Common Cold Centre at Cardiff University has found that getting wet can increase your susceptibility to getting a cold. The study looked at around 180 volunteers, half of whom immersed their feet in bowls of ice-cold water for 20 minutes, while the other half sat with their feet in empty bowls. Over the next few days, almost a third of the chilled volunteers developed cold symptoms, compared with fewer than one in 10 in the control group. It's thought that cold can constrict the blood vessels, slowing down the circulation and reducing the supply of white cells that fight infection.

According to Professor Eccles: "When colds are circulating in the community many people are mildly infected but show no symptoms. If they become chilled, this causes a pronounced constriction of the blood vessels in the nose and shuts off the warm blood that supplies the white cells that fight infection. The reduced defences in the nose allow the virus to get stronger and common cold symptoms develop. Although the chilled subject believes they have 'caught a cold', what has in fact happened is that the dormant infection has taken hold." It's still widely accepted that colds are caused by viruses, and being cold does not make us more vulnerable.

But, your mother may not have been right about 'feed a cold, starve a fever'. Skipping breakfast increases your risk of flu another study by Cardiff University suggests. Researchers say that eating in the morning may help maintain a healthy immune system. Your mother was right to encourage you to wash your hands often. Experts agree that one of the most effective ways of reducing the number of colds is to wash your hands often, as cold germs tend to be passed from person to person by hand contact or by touching contaminated surfaces, such as door handles.
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